Gender discrimination by forcing virginity testing on women must end is a global call given by United Nations agencies.
The concept of a woman’s virginity has been brought to the fore due to cultural, social and religious influences though it does not find a place of importance in any medical or scientific references. The expectations of society about girls remaining virgins till marriage have been nurtured because female sexuality has been typecast in a certain manner. This notion has, however, caused undue harm on the girls and women.
The practice inflicts nothing but trauma, humiliation, and pain on the woman and the UN Women, UN Human Rights and the World Health Organization (WHO) has given a call to put a stop to this violent and totally unrequired medical examination. The procedure involves examination of the hymen to check for rupture or its slit size and can also take the form of the two finger test. This comprises finger insertions into the vagina for coming to conclusions. The virginity testing is based on the belief that the physical examination of a woman’s genitalia is proof enough about her sexual history. However, WHO has rebuffed this belief stating that there exists no empirical proof indicating to a girl or a woman having had vaginal intercourse by any of these methods.
However, this gynecological procedure is still inflicted on girls and women for varied reasons. The continuance of the practice in about a minimum of 20 countries all over the world is a documented fact. The essentiality for the test comes from future partners or parents of the girl or woman in order to ascertain her eligibility for marriage. Employers too can ask for the test for determining the female’s eligibility for employment. The individuals who normally perform the test on the girl or woman comprise police officers, community heads or doctors for the purpose of evaluating their morality, social value, and character. Rape victims are often subjected to this testing by medical professionals to determine the occurrence of rape.
Consequences of Girls’ & Women’s Health
Virginity testing violates the basic rights of girls and women and for rape victims, it is re-living the hell that they have gone through. The re-occurrence of the entire act imposes more pain and affects them deeply. The possibility of causing long-term or short-term psychological, physical and social impact of this practice cannot be ruled out. Depression, post-traumatic stress and anxiety are just a few symptoms that can manifest because of conducting this test. A deep impact can lead to incidences of suicide or ‘honor’ killings.
The performance of this medically needless and harm-causing test goes against the very ethics of medicine and that is to affect no human in a harmful way. Nothing is gained by violating the girls and women’s human rights as well as the basic principle of medicine. That is why WHO has endorsed not to conduct the test whatsoever be the circumstances.
Action on the Part of Government, Community & Health Bodies against Virginity Testing
Communities and medical professionals have to be made aware on an urgent footing for the elimination of this test due to the harmful impacts on the girls and women and the absence of any scientific basis. A ban has been brought about on virginity testing by some governments who have made it a punishable offense. Several organizations championing the cause of human rights and medical bodies have joined them in condemning the practice.
UN Women, UN Human Rights and WHO have put forth the following recommendations for the elimination of this test.
- Professional bodies relating to health and welfare should be knowledgeable about the test having no scientific basis and its inability for determining earlier vaginal penetration. Awareness about the human rights violation and the health impact should be known.
- Enactment and enforcement of laws banning the practice on the part of governments is a must.
- All individuals should come together as a single community to raise greater awareness about the untruths of virginity testing and the wrongful gender biases that impact girls and women’s sexuality and body physique.
More information about this subject, scientific proof and worldwide strategies for its elimination can be obtained from here.